Press Conference, Canberra

26 May 2019
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon all. Last Saturday week, the Australia people elected us to get on with the job, get back to work and get about the task of supporting them to realise their aspirations in life, what they want to achieve for themselves, their families and their communities. Since last Saturday night that has been the task that I’ve been focused on with the Deputy Prime Minister. Today I am pleased to outline to you the new Ministry following the election last Saturday week. This Ministry brings together the experience of those who have been serving in roles across the Government for many years now, some more recently, and it brings together some new members who will bring their skills, experience, passion and energy to the Government, as we set about the task of realising the aspirations for all Australians. The Ministry will be tasked to deliver on the commitments we set out in the election. To deliver 1.25 million new jobs over the next five years. To maintain those Budget surpluses, that deliver the first surplus that we announced in this year’s Budget. To keep it there and pay down the debt. To deliver that tax relief for family and small businesses all around the country. To guarantee the funding for services that Australians rely on in the essential areas of hospitals, roads and schools, affordable medicine and to deliver those services, making them accessible to all Australians. And of course to keep Australians safe, keep our borders secure and to keep Australians safe including in the online world.

The Ministry that I announce today maintains the record representation of women in Cabinet for an Australian Government, with seven female members of our Cabinet. It will include the first ever female Minister for Agriculture, Australia's first ever Agriculture Minister who is a woman. Marise Payne will add to her role and responsibilities, the role of Minister for Women. Australia will also have the first Indigenous Cabinet Minister in Ken Wyatt, who will take on the role of Minister for Indigenous Australians. I also note that Ken will be supported by a new national Indigenous Australians agency that will be set up within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio and that will provide a direct report to Ken in this important area of responsibility. A key focus for all of my team will be on lifting and improving service delivery for all Australians, for services that Australians rely on. I spoke about it when I brought together the heads of the public service. I want to see congestion-busting not only on our roads and across our major cities; I want to see congestion busting when it comes to bureaucratic bottlenecks and regulatory bottlenecks, so Australian can get access to those services in a more timely and efficient way for them, making better use of technology and better integrating service delivery across portfolios. The goal is to make it easier to deal with services that Australians rely on. And so today we will also be establishing a new organisation called Services Australia, built on the Human Services portfolio. Services Australia will pick up it’s lead from a similar organisation established by the New South Wales Government called Services New South Wales, which I think has been a very important reform in New South Wales and made dealing with government much easier. That’s what we want government to be for Australians, we just want it to be much easier. There are services they rely on and we want them to access those services, as easily as they can and in as informed a way as possible. It’s also about driving better use of information technology and apps that can assist Australians to better access services they need. In that portfolio I’ll be appointing Stuart Robert as the Minister for Government Services in Cabinet. I will also be appointing Stuart to the very important role - and an issue that is very dear to my heart – that’s the National Disability Insurance Scheme. He’ll be the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and he’ll be responsible, together with myself of course, to ensure that we reach that goal that we set of 500,000 Australians who will be able to access the services of the National Disability Insurance Scheme over the next five years. It’s a very big social reform, it was begun by our predecessors and has been committed to by our Government. It’s fully funded under our Government and the work of ensuring that it meets the needs of all Australians who live with a disability and their families, is critically important. It’s got to be made easier. It’s a very targeted program. Every single Australian with a disability needs a bespoke approach, their challenges are different and they must be recognised as different. You can’t take a cookie-cutter approach to this, you’ve got to [inaudible] each individual member and we need to have a system that can address that.

Moving more broadly, the economic team of course will be led by Josh Frydenberg as Treasurer together with MathiasCormann as Minister for Finance. Within the Minister for Finance responsibilities, that will include what were formerly the responsibilities of the Special Minister for State. They will be taken within Minister Cormann’s portfolio responsibilities and it will be their job to continue to keep the Budget in surplus and ensure that we deliver on those tax cuts for families and small businesses. They will be supported by Michaelia Cash in the portfolio of Minister for Employment, Skills and Small and Family Businesses. Michaelia’s job is to work with the rest of the team to deliver those 1.2 5 million new jobs right around the country over the next five years. The Employment Services portfolio that was previously held by Kelly O'Dwyer, that Employment Services function will go into that new Department of Employment, Skills, and Small and Family Business. Michaelia Cash will be supported by Steve Irons as Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships. Steve was an electrician, Steve knows what it’s like to get a trade and help people get trade qualifications. He understands the needs of small businesses who want to take people on with trades, as apprentices. I look forward to the great work Steve will be able to do in that portfolio. Christian Porter of course will be Attorney General and Manager of Government Business in the House. He will also take on the responsibility of Minister for Industrial Relations. That will include creating fairer workplaces and enforcing the rule of law in industrial relations, particularly through the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

The Deputy Prime Minister of course will continue in his role in delivering our $100 billion national infrastructure programme which is central to our economic plan. This will include the National Water Grid for which he will have direct responsibility and he will be supported by Alan Tudge who comes into Cabinet and will continue his work in the portfolio he was serving in previously as Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure. The economic team will be supported also by Michael Sukkar who comes into the ministry as Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing. He will have particular responsibility for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme which we announced and committed to during the election, as well as more affordable housing. Jane Hume will come in as Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and fin tech, Financial Technology. Karen Andrews will continue as Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, working closely with industry stakeholders to create more and better paid jobs and harnessing the great opportunities that are there in science and technology for our industries. Matt Canavan will continue in the role of Resources and Northern Australia. Paul Fletcher will take on the job of Minister for Communications and Cyber Safety and the Arts. I’ll come to the roles that were formally performed by Mitch Fifield and what we have planned for Mitch in the months ahead. Returning to the rest of the Ministry, in social policy Anne Ruston will be elevated to Cabinet and will take on the job of Minister for Family and Social Services. She will also perform the role of Manager of Government Business in the Senate. She will be supported by Luke Howarth who comes into the assistant ministry as Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Community Services and Homelessness. Greg Hunt will lead the charge on our plan to combat youth suicide and youth mental health in this country. He will do that of course as Minister for Health, where he’s done an outstanding job. Greg will pull together an implementation forum of the nation’s experts in coming months, dealing with both youth and Indigenous mental health issues and working through our plan to deliver that on the ground. Greg will also take on the role of Minister Assisting myself for the Public Service and for Cabinet, Greg will play a key role in assisting us with our response to Thodey Review as well as playing a broader strategic role in policy development across the Government. Dan Tehan will continue his role as Minister for Education, it’s his job to deliver those programmes we have fully funded and conclude arrangements with the outstanding states and working closely with them to that end. Richard Colbeck will take on the job in Ministry of Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and as Minister for Youth and Sport. His job will be to ensure there’s a strong voice for issues facing both younger and older Australians, across the country, particularly when we’re deal with the Royal Commission into aged care quality and safety, as that continues in the years ahead.

In the area of national security and defence, Minister Payne will continue as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and as I said, she will take on the role as Minister for Women. Former Army Services Brigadier Linda Reynolds takes on the role of Minister for Defence, which I flagged before the election. Peter Dutton continues in his role as Minister for Home Affairs and Simon Birmingham in his role as Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. You know all know our passion for the Pacific ‘step up’ program, a very important program in Australia's national interest. I am elevating the role of the Pacific and International Development portfolio to Ministry level and that will be taken on by Alex Hawke, who will become the Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Assistant Defence minister. That will ensure we’re able to integrate everything from our role in our international development program and defence initiatives throughout the Pacific, to ensure that we’re working closely with our Pacific family, our whanau or vuvale across the region. I thank Alex for taking on that role, it will be a very significant role for Australia's future and I think he has exactly the skills to ensure we’re able to deliver. In the Environment, Sussan Ley will take on the role as Minister for the Environment, with a focus on practical and local environmental outcomes as well as waste reduction and recycling. She will be assisted by Trevor Evans who will have a particular focus on waste reduction and local environmental management. Angus Taylor will continue as Minister for Energy and his portfolio will take on the further role of Emissions Reduction; responsibility in particular for meeting the 2030 emissions targets and the Climate Solutions Fund. Warren Entsch will also be appointed in the only of our special envoys, Warren will take on the role as special envoy for the Great Barrier Reef. Warren has a passion across a whole range of issues in relation to the Reef, as you know, he’s the Member for Leichhardt, returned once again and he has a particular passion for oceans policy and the impact of plastic on our oceans. I discussed Warren working in with our Minister and Assistant Minister in both those respects. I should mention that Melissa Price will be taking on the role of Defence Industry Minister, the Minister for Defence Industry, forming part of that defence team. She will also be joined in the defence team by Darren Chester who continues in his role of Veterans Affairs and Defence Personnel.

Now, after consulting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs I intend to recommend to the Governor General that Arthur Sinodinos be appointed as Australia’s next Ambassador to the United States of America and I intend to recommend to the Governor General that Mitch Fifield be appointed our next Ambassador to the United Nations. They will both be exceptional representatives of Australia and our countries interests abroad will be well served in those roles. Both senators have made an enormous contribution in the public service both were given the opportunity to continue to serve in the Ministry. They have chosen to take on these new and very exciting roles.

So our Government has a broad agenda to deliver. We are a Government that is back at work and the Ministry will be sworn in on Wednesday. The Party Room comes together on Tuesday, Cabinet will meet on Wednesday. We're back at work, implementing our agenda to keep our economy strong, to guarantee the essentials that Australians rely on, to keep Australians safe and to keep Australians together. I look forward to working with my new team.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] you mentioned the Minister for Agriculture was a woman, you didn’t mention who that would be.

PRIME MINISTER: Bridget McKenzie, Bridget McKenzie as the Minister for Agriculture, I'm sorry.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister on your agenda, [inaudible] review into the retirement income system, pensions, superannuation, the whole direction [inaudible]. Will franking credits be part of that review?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ll come back to that because Michelle was asking me about the Nationals. The list has been circulated, or it should be distributed as we speak. But just to go over the other Nats positions in the ministry; it’s Mark Coulton, he takes on the role of Local Government and Decentralisation and Regional Services and continues in the role of Assistant Minister for Trade and Investment. Michelle Landry continues in her role as Assistant Minister for Children and Families and Andrew Gee continues in his role, so many of the Nationals are continuing in their former roles.

JOURNALIST: And David Littleproud?

PRIME MINISTER: David Littleproud is taking on Water Resources together with Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, he’s also taking on the role of Rural Finance and has continuing responsibilities on drought. As we moved around the country, what is very clear is that the impact of natural disasters and emergencies are very connected in a lot of our rural and regional communities. David has done an extraordinary job in the work we’ve done with drought and in assisting me particularly where I’ve been most recently in north Queensland with the Livestock Recovery Agency that we’ve established there. David has shown a real talent I think in getting in and solving problems on the ground as we seek to have recovery and assistance put into place in these areas of Australia. David I think will do an astounding job in each of those capacities, as he has been doing -

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister just on the inquiry into the retirement system, will that be broad-ranging and will it encompass franking credits? Can [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m not making announcements today, but our response to the Productivity Commission will be handled by the Treasurer with support from the Assistant Minister for Superannuation.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister why was Melissa Price moved from the Environment portfolio?

PRIME MINISTER: Melissa and I discussed her role, she asked to be given a new challenge and I was happy to give her one.

JOURNALIST: So she was doing a good job in Environment?

PRIME MINISTER: She’s going to do a great job as Defence Industry Minister.

JOURNALIST:  Prime Minister just on Arthur Sinodinos, Donald Trump has asked his Attorney General to investigate Australia role in sparking the 2016 FBI investigation into links between the campaign and Russia. Can you tell us; was Australia part of any conspiracy to launch that investigation?

PRIME MINISTER: I don't plan to make any comments on ongoing investigations.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister will you outline a sort of timetable from here? When will the swearing in happen, when will Parliament be recalled?

PRIME MINISTER: I said earlier the Ministry will be sworn in on Wednesday. We are awaiting advice from the AEC as to when the return of writs will be provided. That at present they’re saying that’s the 28th of June and there’s a possibility of that occurring earlier. That presents different opportunities for when might be able to recall Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Just of the Senate vacancies for Arthur Sinodinos and Mitch Fifield?

PRIME MINISTER: There are no Senate vacancies at the moment.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, when he leaves - ?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, let me be very clear about this process. We would make a recommendation at an appropriate time in the future to the Governor General, about who would serve in these two roles. So as a result, when that occurs, at that time, then that is a matter that any possible Senate vacancies will be considered.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] Jim Molan to take that spot?

PRIME MINISTER: In the event that there would be a selection in New South Wales or Victoria, they would be matters for the New South Wales and Victoria division.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister just on Angus Taylor’s role, Josh Frydenberg in the Turnbull government had Energy and the Environment, so he was responsible for emissions reductions as well. They were then separated under you, it seems they’ve kind of been brought back together, is that a fair way to say it?

PRIME MINISTER: If you look closely at the Climate Solutions Fund and the other initiatives related to meeting our emissions reduction targets – it’s Snowy 2.0, the Marinus Link, the Battery of the Nation project - these projects fall very much into the role of Energy infrastructure that Angus is closely associated with. So it made, I think, a lot of sense to bring that under the same banner. Angus has a lot of experience in dealing with these issues, a lot of technical knowledge on these issues and I think that will ensure these matters are well integrated.

JOURNALIST: Is there unfinished business though, when it comes to getting emissions down in the energy sector?

PRIME MINISTER: No, we’ve set out our plan before the election as to how we meet our 2030 targets, and in fact, we were the only Party at this election that did. I mean we still don't know what the cost of the Labor’s proposal was and the election is over! Maybe next leadership will tell us. I don’t know and maybe they’ll tell us how they’ll meet the 45 per cent emissions reduction target. I don’t even know if that’s still Labor policy, but they don't have any leaders at the moment so we wouldn’t know.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister on your Pacific ‘step up’, we’ve seen that PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill [inaudible] your response today?

PRIME MINISTER: First of all can I just say ‘thank you’ to Peter O'Neill. I have worked with Peter in three different portfolios, I worked with him as the Minister of immigration, I worked with him as the Treasurer and I worked with him as Prime Minister. Peter has been a passionate servant of his country, and I think that was best on show when he led and chaired the APEC meeting in Papua New Guinea, which I attended last year. That was a great moment of great pride for Papua New Guineans and I was so proud of the way Peter conducted himself and showed great – the Maori would say māia - and while that’s not a Melanesian word, it’s one that would be well ascribed to him. The processes of succession there are still in train and I won’t make any formal comment on who may now take that role and how Peter O'Neill now proceeds, but PNG is our closest friend and neighbor. There is just a small body of water that is between us and PNG and we have a special relationship with Papua New Guinea and always will. I will look forward to working with the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea in the same way I have enjoyed such a strong friendship and relationship with Peter O'Neill. My simple message to Peter O'Neill - and I look forward to passing this on soon personally - is thank you. Thank you on behalf of Australia for your friendship.

JOURNALIST: PM on the economy, do you think the bottom has been reached in the property market?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’ll let others speculate on property. I think, without going back into the issues of the election, what I do know is had Labor's very negative property and housing taxes come into being, then there is only one way that people's house values were going to go. Now, we will continue with our sound economic management and I’ll leave it to others to make commentary on the movements in property markets.

JOURNALIST: PM on Mitch Fifield did he choose not to not sit around the Cabinet table and be ambassador to the UN instead?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes he did. As I said, it was Mitch's call about what he wanted to do, I would have been very happy for Mitch to continue to serve in Communications and the Arts. I think Mitch has done an outstanding job in what has been a very difficult task in the NBN. And Paul Fletcher comes to this role no stranger to these issues. He has deep experience when it comes to ICT in this country and I think he will be a great successor to Mitch and he’ll do an outstanding job and I thank Mitch for the great job he has done.

JOURNALIST: Did Michael McCormack choose the people to put into the portfolios the Nats were allocated?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes though he obviously consults me as Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST:  But he actually chose -?

PRIME MINISTER: This is the way our relationship works, he makes those assessments.

JOURNALIST: Can I just clarify on the tax cuts, so if the Government won’t split the Bill and it looks like Parliament is not going to come back until after July 1, is there any concern that the offsets, the expanded offsets for low to middle income earners are not going to get through?

PRIME MINISTER: We’re putting our entire tax plan to the Parliament. We just put it to the people of Australia. It’s a plan for aspirational Australians. It’s a plan for tax relief not just now but into the future. If the Labor Party has learned nothing from this election, if their takeout of this election is they should be denying Australians their aspirations, well I think that’s a sad indictment on the Labor Party and it says they weren’t listening to the quiet Australians last Saturday when they spoke up and they seem to be not listening and I would say that they should endorse these measures because they’re good measures. They’ll be good measures for the Australian economy, they’ll be good measures for jobs, and they’ll be good measures for confidence in the Australian economy as we face what are some difficult headwinds into the years ahead. This is an important program of tax relief out over the medium term and it was put to the Australian people as a package, so it’ll be put to the Australian Parliament as a package and I would urge all the Members of the Parliament to listen to the Australian people.

I think their view and their voice was very clear and based on what they’ve asked me to do, they’ve asked me to get back to work and get on with the job and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Thank you very much.